Redshirts

Kindergarten, and "7 other things worth..." Sorry, I mean: 7 people worth knowing about.

My daughter and I were at the town pool over the weekend. I got to talking with the parents of a boy who will be a rising kindergartener this week.

Actually, strike that: he would have been a kindergartener.

But since our town is starting the year with virtual education only, they’re pulling him out. No alternative plan yet; for now, they’re just redshirting. They’ll do kindergarten next year.

About 20 percent of kindergarten parents wind up holding their kids back in a normal year. But redshirting can be controversial.

So, I was interested to come across a study from Stanford University a few years ago that looked at whether it’s better to send kids to school on time or a year later.

Short version: They say all things being equal, parents should redshirt.

Instead of focusing on purely academic data, the the Stanford researchers set their sights on figuring out how being the oldest or the youngest affected things like kids’ mental health, discipline, and self-control—all of which can ultimately have a greater effect on academic achievement.

They studied elementary school students in Denmark, segmenting them into redshirted and not-redshirted groups. (I’m not sure they call it redshirting in Denmark, but you get the point.)

The results were that kids who delayed attending kindergarten for a year were far more likely to be able to pay attention in school, and had “dramatically higher levels of self-control,” than their peers. The advantage was sustained for years afterward.

You probably remember this debate from a few years ago, when Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers came out. He studied the National Hockey League (he's Canadian; go figure), and noticed that an unusual high number of players were born in January and February.

He traced it back to the fact that youth hockey leagues used January 1 as the birthday cutoff date. So, kids born in January and February were always the oldest on their teams. They were more mature and physically developed, and that led to more playing time and coaching attention.

One more point: Let’s quickly revisit my use of the phrase “all things being equal,” since things are rarely equal.

Since wealthier families are more likely to red-shirt their children, there’s a question whether their kids might be benefiting in the self-control department from other aspect of their more privileged childhoods.

Also, there's the question of what kids do during their “extra year” — although that’s complicated this year in an unusual way.

Still, if you’re in this boat, and you’re feeling guilty about not being 100 percent into the virtual school idea — and especially if your kids are younger, and maybe even just starting kindergarten — I think it’s a reassuring study to know about.

Besides, who wouldn't want to give themselves an extra year to grow up?

7 people worth knowing about

(I’ve been thinking that it might be more in keeping with what I’m trying to do here to frame stories so they’re about the people, first. So, while I don’t know if this is an experiment or a permanent(-ish) change, I thought I’d try writing about “people,” as opposed to “7 other things worth your time.”)

  • Maye Musk. She’s Elon Musk’s mom, and I’ve written about her for Inc.com. More recently, she has a book out, and she talked with CNBC about her unorthodox childhood in South Africa, because of her father’s obsession with taking the family every year to search for Lost City of the Kalahari Desert. (Not mentioned: apartheid, at least in the article; I haven’t read the book.) The bonus here is the photo of how young Elon Musk looked at age 17, just before he left South Africa for Canada in the hope of reaching the United States. (Inc., CNBC)

  • Forrest Fenn. He died. If you don’t know the name, maybe you’ll remember him for the thing he wanted to be remembered for, which is claiming to have buried a $2 million treasure somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, and inviting people to look for it. Apparently something like 300,000 people did — and Fenn announced in June that it had been found. But Tony Dokoupil of CBS This Morning, who interviewed Fenn at length in 2012, says he disbelieved Fenn’s claim that it was found. (Deadline, Twitter)

  • An unnamed motorcyclist. He was going 178 miles an hour on a highway outside Atlanta, according to police, who say they clocked him on radar but didn’t bother going after him. It’s notable as an example of “super speeders,” who are on the rise since the pandemic resulted in less traffic: Georgia’s state patrol says tickets for going over 100 mph are up 67% since last year. (AJC.com)

  • Mirza Begovic, who is language arts teacher at an elementary school in Bosnia, and who teamed up with colleagues to raise money and build an open-air classroom at their school. The project was proposed before Covid-19, but took on urgency since the pandemic. “Our model offers a breath of fresh air both for teachers and students. It allows us to breathe, speak and work freely. I am so proud of it.” (Reuters)

  • Vanessa Guillén, a U.S. Army specialist who was found dead at Fort Hood in July. She’s one of 30 U.S. soldiers to have died at the Texas base this year, nine of them “under unusual or suspicious circumstances.” Now, two Congressional committees are looking into whether the deaths “may be symptomatic of underlying leadership, discipline, and morale deficiencies throughout the chain-of-command." (NPR)

  • La'Ron Singletary. The chief of police in Rochester, N.Y., Singletary and the rest of the entire top leadership apparently resigned or retired from the police in the wake of “protests and criticism of his handling of the investigation” of the death of Daniel Prude last March. “As a man of integrity, I will not sit idly by while outside entities attempt to destroy my character,” said Singletary, 40, who joined the department as a cadet and rose to become chief. (ABC News)

  • Mary Barra, CEO of GM. She’s in the news today because GM took an 11 percent stake in electric vehicle startup Nikola for $2 billion, with plans to “produce Nikola’s wild fuel cell pickup truck by the end of 2022.” But I like mentioning her here because it gives me a chance to point out her LinkedIn profile, which lists 14 jobs, all at GM and its predecessors, going back to the start, when she was an 18-year-old intern. (TechCrunch, LinkedIn)

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I wrote about the Stanford study once for Inc.com, and it’s also been covered in Quartz. If you liked this post, and you’re not yet a subscriber, please sign up for the daily Understandably.com email newsletter, with thousands and thousands of 5-star ratings from happy readers. You can also just send an email to signup@understandably.com. And now, you can also get it by text at (718) 866-1753.

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